In the most recent installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Air Force great Raymond Dudley, who remains the school's all-time leading scorer. A two-time All-American, Dudley also leads the school in three pointers made. He currently is a coach in the Fairfax Stars AAU organization in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jon Teitel: Why did you choose to attend the Air Force Academy?
Raymond Dudley: I actually signed a letter of intent with Missouri in the fall of my senior year of high school and indicated to Coach Norm Stewart that I still wanted to look at Air Force. I visited Air Force in the spring and decided that it was the best long-term decision for me, as I knew that I would graduate with a job. I did not know if I had all the tools to make it to the next level of basketball.
JT: How were you able to balance your on-court activities with your off-court activities, and what was it like to play a sport at a service academy?
RD: Balancing the academic, military, and athletics was tough. Luckily, we had great coaches and an academic staff that kept us focused on our real goals: graduation and a commission in the Air Force.
JT: In 1987 you were named WAC Rookie of the Year. How were you able to come in and contribute as a freshman?
RD: We had a young team with no seniors, so there were opportunities to play and contribute immediately.
JT: In 1988 you scored a career-high 38 points in a win over Portland. Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?
RD: I do not remember that game specifically, but when I did score a few points it was usually the result of PG Jeff Bowling doing a great job dishing the ball and taking the pressure off of me on the defensive end so that I could exert myself a little more on the offensive end. I would like to think that I was "in the zone", but he made a lot of my success happen, as well as guys like Chad Kimble, Mike Lockwood, Mark Slimko, Rob Marr, and Mike Hammond.
JT: In 1990 you were named an Honorable Mention All-American. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding individual honor?
RD: The All-American honor was obviously great. Being recognized like that and coming from a school that is not a basketball powerhouse, it was great that people took notice. However, it was tough to end my career without making it to the Big Dance: I think that would have meant more.
JT: You are still the all-time leading scorer in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were?
RD: I do not know about that, but I have always been confident in my ability to play the game. I may not have always been the best player on the court, but I was definitely going to compete when I stepped out there.
JT: In 1990 you played in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. What did you think of the competition, and how close did you come to getting drafted?
RD: The PIT was fun; it was a great environment to test your skills and see how you stacked up. I had nothing to lose, so I just played my game. I do remember Jud Buechler setting a three-point record in a game during the first day...and then I broke his record later that day! I also remember attempting to dunk on Greg Foster from UTEP...and he promptly threw my attempt out of bounds. I did talk with Danny Manning's father Ed, who was with the Spurs at the time. He asked me to let the organization know if I would be able to get out of my military commitment by draft day. I also chatted with the Clippers, who mentioned signing me as a free agent.
JT: After graduation you served as a graduate assistant and assistant coach for both the JV and varsity teams at the Academy. What was it like to coach some of your old teammates, and what did you learn about the game while sitting on the sidelines?
RD: Coaching is tough, especially after just leaving the court as a player. As a coach, you see things a bit differently than a player does. You have to manage your own expectations for a player while truly setting realistic ones for players based on their talent levels.
JT: You currently coach an AAU team in Fairfax, VA. What are your thoughts on the AAU circuit, and what do you hope to do in the future?
RD: The AAU circuit is crazy. You see teams that recruit as hard as colleges (if not harder). You also have the push for athletic brand sponsorships for AAU clubs, which plays into recruiting at the AAU level and then the college level. You have parents reclassifying their kids in order to give them another year to develop, instead of just going out and playing the game at their current age/grade. However, it does provide a competitive environment for kids of all ages/skill levels to compete in a sport that they love. It also provides student-athletes with additional exposure to colleges through national tournaments, exposure events, and various scouting services that attend those events. For boys' basketball, the scouting services are key! As far as my future, I would love to coach at the college level. March Madness validates the concept that college basketball is great, exciting, and full of talented players across the country. I would like to be a part of that again and help some young players get better and realize their full potential and reach their goals.
JT: When people look back on your career, what do you want them to remember the most?
RD: I hope they remember that I was a tough competitor, gave it my all, and left it all on the court every single night. The guys I mentioned above (Bowling, Kimble, Lockwood, Slimko, Marr, and Hammond) were like that.
Dudley is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in MWC history.
Air Force: Raymond Dudley (1990) 2178 PTS (#1), 148 STL (#3), 285 3PM (#1), 39.6 3PM (#5), 2-time All-American
BYU: Danny Ainge (1981) 2467 PTS (#2), 539 AST (#2), 195 STL (#2), 2-time All-American, conference POY, national POY
Colorado State: Pat Durham (1989) 1980 PTS (#1), 851 REB (#1), 109 STL (#5), 171 BLK (#3)
New Mexico: Kenny Thomas (1999) 1931 PTS (#2), 1032 REB (#1), 239 BLK (#2), All-American
San Diego State: Michael Cage (1984) 1846 PTS (#2), 1317 REB (#1), 54.8 FG% (#5), 118 BLK (#2), 2-time All-American, 2-time conference POY
TCU: Corey Santee (2005) 1832 PTS (#2), 575 AST (#1), 155 STL (#2), 243 3PM (#1)
UNLV: Stacey Augmon (1991) 2011 PTS (#3), 1005 REB (#3), 275 STL (#1), 41.9 3P% (#3), All-American, conference POY, 3-time defensive POY
Utah: Keith Van Horn (1997) 2542 PTS (#1), 1074 REB (#2), 206 3PM (#2), 126 BLK (#2), 85.1 FT% (#1), 2-time All-American, 3-time conference POY, national POY
Wyoming: Fennis Dembo (1988) 2311 PTS (#1), 954 REB (#3), 410 AST (#4), 176 STL (#2), 143 3PM (#5), All-American, conference POY